RaboDirect Pro12 wrap: Leinster go top as Munster lose to Scarlets

RaboDirect Pro12 wrap: Gareth Llewellyn-Stevens takes a look at this weekends action as Leinster go top

Ulster slayed Newport Gwent Dragons on Friday night with a flawless 35-minute performance at the start of the match which saw Ireland wing Tommy Bowe score two tries in his first match from a leg injury.

Darren Cave was impressive in the centre, having a hand in two tries and breaking tackles at will as the Welsh region performed poorly all over the pitch. Ever dependable South African scrum-half Ruan Pienaar was also impressive, scoring a penalty and the opening try as well as setting up Bowe.

The 38-8 win edges the Irish side closer to rivals Leinster and Munster at the top of the Pro12 table with their postponed clash against the Scarlets at Ravenhill to come on 14 March.

Edinburgh got back to winning ways after three successive defeats with a 31-25 win over the Ospreys at Meggatland in an ill-disciplined match.

The Welsh region enjoyed 70 per cent of territory and 55 per cent of possession in the first half, but allowed Edinburgh to score tries from all three of their visits into the 22, with New Zealander Grayson Hart twice going over and South African Carl Bezuidenhout kicking 16 points.

Wales outside-half Dan Biggar edged the Ospreys back into the match with three penalties in the second half, but Bezuidenhout was also impressive with the boot before Biggar snatched a losing bonus point for Steve Tandy’s side in the closing stages.

On Saturday afternoon, Zebre secured their first double in the Pro12 as they shocked Cardiff Blues 15-10 in Parma as the Welsh side head into the three-week league break feeling hard done by with a last-minute Harry Robinson try ruled out for obstruction by the TMO.

The injury-ravaged Blues, who have the worst defence in the league this season giving up 25 points a game to just 19 scored, slip down to 10th in the league with their ninth defeat in 10 matches.

Brendon Leonard and Giulio Toniolatti both went over in the first half as the Italians went in at the break 12-3 in front before an almighty backlash from Phil Davies’ side in the second.

Full-back Tom Williams, who had been at fault for Toniolatti’s try, went over for the Blues after a period of sustained pressure 10 minutes in, and the Blues saw another try-scoring opportunity blown up for accidental offside five minutes from time.

Connacht won three in a row for the first time this season as their revival continued with a five-try 38-6 thrashing of Treviso in Galway to move into ninth place in the table ahead of the Blues.

John Muldoon went over twice with Fionn Carr, Kieran Marmion and Eoin McKeon also dotting down with Dan Parks kicking 14 points. Mat Berquist scored Treviso’s only points in the match from two first-half penalties as the Italian side produced another lacklustre and ill-disciplined performance in the Pro12 and can think themselves lucky that Connacht scored just one try in the closing 11 minutes after going down to 13 men.

Scarlets celebrated St David’s Day in style with an 18-13 win over league leaders Munster with flanker John Barclay’s breakaway try the difference as the Irish province failed to make it eight out of eight against Welsh opposition this season.

Gerhard van den Heever, who was guilty of wasting some of Munster’s best attacking chances, scored the Irish side’s only try with Gareth Davies also dotting down for the Scarlets.
The match also marked the return of Wales centre Jonathan Davies who survived almost 65 minutes and saw an impressive defensive display from the home side as Munster lay siege to the Scarlets’ tryline in the closing stages, but failed to convert a number of chances.

In the Saturday’s very late kick-off, Leinster twice came from behind to go top of the Pro12 with a thrilling 28-25 win over Glasgow Warriors at the RDS.

The Warriors had won just once in 18 visits to Dublin, but were effervescent in the opening 30 minutes with converted centre Richie Vernon twice going over after Leinster centre Noel Reid broke through for the opening score after five minutes.

But the reigning champions clawed their way back to build a first-half lead through the kicking of Ian Madigan before Darragh Fanning’s unconverted try just before half-time gave the home side a healthy lead, going in at the break 21-15 up after Finn Russell added a penalty for the Warriors.

The second half was an equally frenetic affair with the Warriors edging ahead and looking the more like to score. After a period of sustained pressure at the Leinster tryline, Niko Matawalu somehow got through a pile of bodies, the TMO eventually finding the right angle to confirm the grounding.

In true Leinster style, they came back with vengeance and were rewarded for their persistence in the Warriors 22 as flanker Rhys Ruddock found his way over to make the score 28-22. With five minutes remaining and the wind in the Warriors’ favour, Russell added an easy penalty rather than looking for the corner and that all but ended their hopes of a win as Leinster went through 22 phases without really going anywhere to wind down the clock.

Despite the score, it was one of the Warriors’ best performances of the season which deserved more than just a losing bonus point.

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